Athlon's editorial staff offers its predictions and insight for the 2011 Final Four:
Mitch Light, Managing Editor (@AthlonMitch):
Ohio State, Texas, Kansas, Florida
Nothing too bold with Ohio State and Kansas, both No. 1 seeds. I think Texas is ready to flip the switch back on and play like it did when it jumped out to an 11-0 start in the Big 12. The Horns are outstanding on defense and have the parts to get it done on offense. I'm not in love with my Florida pick, but there weren't too many teams in the Southeast Region that got me excited. The Gators are a very difficult team to guard because they can get scoring from all five spots on the floor. Ohio State over Kansas in the championship game.
Rob Doster, Senior Editor (@AthlonDoster)
Ohio State, Duke, Kansas, Florida
Yes, it’s a boring, chalk-heavy quartet, which on the surface might seem an unlikely outcome in an era of parity that lacks dominant teams. But these clubs have separated themselves from the pack with talented, balanced and versatile rosters, as well as great coaching. The Gators are a bit of a wild card after laying an egg in the SEC Tournament finals, but they arrive at the Dance having won 10 of 12, a stretch that included seven wins over tournament participants. Finals Prediction: Ohio State over Kansas – The best player (Jared Sullinger) on the best team will lead the Buckeyes to their first national title since the days of Jerry Lucas.
Charlie Miller, Editorial Director (@AthlonCharlie)
Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, Florida
I tried to find a reason not to pick the No. 1 seeds, but Ohio State and Kansas are just too strong with inside and outside weapons that are not susceptible to slumps. I’m not sure where the real threat to Duke is. I’m not a believer in San Diego State, and I suspect UConn will run out of gas soon. Many believe that Florida is overseeded, but they are getting better every week, and Billy Donovan has been here before.
Braden Gall, Editor/Host (@AthlonBraden)
Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, Wisconsin
The Buckeyes were the best team in the nation with the best player in the nation. Does a true freshman point guard and big man wearing Scarlet and Gray in the Final Four sound familiar to anyone? Duke, with Kyrie Irving, would be the best team in the nation, but experience still counts for something. Mason Plumlee will have to stay out of foul trouble and impose his will Zoubek-style. Kansas, if it can get consistent play from the re-energized Tyshawn Taylor and inexperienced Josh Selby, will make a serious push for a second national title in four years. The Badgers are the surprise team. They have two Wooden Finalists and a phenomenal coach. Also, they can shoot from the outside, never turn the ball over and knock down the freebies from the stripe. Look for Bo Ryan to finally break through in a region that matches-up well with his hard-nosed defensive style.
Patrick Snow, Editor (@AthlonSnowman)
Ohio State, Duke, Pitt, Louisville
Experience means a ton in March, and Coach K will have Duke ready to perform so I’ll take the Blue Devils to make their second straight Final Four. March is also a time for great guard play, and Pitt has a quality veteran duo in Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker. Add in seniors Gary McGhee and Gilbert Brown on the font line, and you have an experienced team that is ready for a Final Four breakthrough. The Louisville Cardinals are my surprise pick for the Final Four. Rick Pitino had his crew playing well at the end of the season, and the former championship coach has a hungry group. The Buckeyes only lost twice this season, and both of those were on the road to a ranked opponent. OSU cruised through the Big Ten with deadly outside shooting and the inside presence of Freshman of the Year Jared Sullinger, and they’ll use the same formula to cut down the nets in Houston.
Nathan Rush, Editor
Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Texas
Those are my physical four that make it to the Final Four in my bracket, with the Buckeyes bullying their way to the national title behind Jared “Big Sully” Sullinger. Although my Final Four was a little chalky — with three No. 1 seeds advancing — those teams are top seeds for a reason. The Longhorns are my longshot, but I’ve liked this burnt orange crew all season and think they have what it takes to make it to Houston. In the end, however, Ohio State has too much — talent, depth, size, shooters and coach Thad Matta — and will climb the ladder to cut down the nets as national champs.
Steven Lassan, Editor (@AthlonSteven)
Ohio State, Kansas, Pittsburgh, Duke
Ohio State and Kansas finished the season ranked as the top two teams and should be the teams to beat on the road to Houston. Figuring out which other two teams will join them in Houston could be one of the more difficult decisions for office pool entries. Pittsburgh is bound to breakthrough and reach the Final Four at some point, while Duke could get San Diego State in Anaheim for the right to advance to Houston. It seems unlikely all four No. 1 seeds will advance to the Final Four, but I don't see any better options. The Panthers are the No. 1 seed I feel the most uneasy about, but I can't find a team that will beat them in the Southeast Region. National Champion: Ohio State
Matt Taliaferro, Senior Designer/Editor (@MattTaliaferro)
Ohio State, San Diego State, Louisville, Pitt
The selection committee did Ohio State no favors by placing them in the toughest region, but this Buckeyes team is still good enough to play its way through it. San Diego State may still be an unknown to many, but the Aztecs won’t be for long — this team is for real. Louisville seems to be playing its best ball right now, and Rick Pitino can steer the Cards through their minefield of a region. The Cards will face Pitt in the Final Four. The Panthers will skate through the easiest region of the bracket.
Corby Yarbrough, Graphic Designer/Editor: (@AthlonCorby)
Ohio State, Duke, Notre Dame, Pitt
Only once have all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four (2008), and I came close to picking all four No. 1s. But it can't be that easy, can it? History says no. So I went with the senior-laden Fighting Irish to upset Kansas in the Elite Eight and make the Final Four. However, Pittsburgh will avenge its Jan. 24, 56-51 loss to Notre Dame en route to the title game. So Jamie Dixon, you need to get the Panthers past the Elite Eight for once as to not make me look a fool. On the other side of the bracket, the nation's No. 1 team, Ohio State, cruises to the semifinals, sneaks past Duke on the way to the championship game and then wins it all with a victory over Pittsburgh.
Mark Ross, Assistant Editor:
Ohio State, Kansas, Kansas State, Texas
There's a reason Ohio State is the overall No. 1 seed, and even though the Buckeyes are in the same bracket as my beloved Tar Heels (not to mention Syracuse, Kentucky, Xavier and Washington), they have too much balance for anyone to stop them in the East. After Ohio State, the next most complete team in my opinion is Kansas, who I believe will be playing with a chip on their shoulder following last year's stunning loss to Northern Iowa. As much as I favor complete teams when it comes to the NCAA Tournament, I also think there are certain players who are capable of carrying the load when the stakes are at the highest (think Danny Manning in 1988). I put Kansas State's Jacob Pullen in that category. Yes, BYU's got Jimmer Fredette, but I like the bearded one's supporting cast more than Jimmer's. Finally, I think Texas' front line and perimeter defense (fifth in the nation in 3-point field goal defense) will be too much for the defending champion Blue Devils to overcome, propelling the Longhorns out of the West bracket and the opportunity to win it all at "home."
Kristine Chaklos, Editorial Intern (@KristineChaklos)
Ohio State, San Diego State, Kansas, Pitt
Although it doesn’t hurt having a freakish talent in Jared Sullinger on your team, Ohio State will make the Final Four because they are the most balanced group in the nation. Jon Diebler is shooting over 50 percent from 3-point range (a crucial asset to have in the tournament), they dominate on the boards (+5.4 per game), hold opponents to less than 60 points per game and have a great bench. The Buckeyes also possess possibly the most important tournament quality for any team: A great coaching staff, led by Thad Matta. This Kansas is just as explosive and deep as its 2008 national championship squad. Although Duke is always dangerous with the invaluable Singler-Smith-Krzyzewski magical bromance, San Diego State has been special all year — losing only twice to BYU. The Aztecs have six wins against the RPI top 50 and have proven to be a great cohesive unit. I’m tempted to pick wildcard BYU in the Southeast because I’m a victim of Jimmer-fever, but I have to go with Pitt to represent the unbelievably competitive Big East conference in the Final Four.